North Highlands Truck Accident Lawyer
Large commercial trucks share the roads with passenger vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians throughout California, including the North Highlands area. While common carriers are heavily regulated by the federal and state government, there are still thousands of severe crashes every year. Trucking companies and drivers are obligated to safely operate and maintain their vehicles to prevent accidents from happening on the road. If this is not followed, an injured person or family of a decedent may be able to file a claim against a negligent trucker or entity for damages incurred. While proving negligence in every case is not always easy, hiring an experienced attorney can make a difference in the outcome of the case.Common Factors in a Tractor-Trailer Accident
Truck accidents often stem from an error on the part of the trucking company or truck driver. Some of the common factors in these crashes include:
- Cargo Errors: There are a few reasons why cargo can cause a collision. The cargo may be improperly secured where unbalanced weight distribution can lead to a rollover accident. The load may also be mislabeled or hazardous, leading to a dangerous explosion or spill.
- Fatigue: Truckers are not allowed to work extended hours without sufficient rest. Driver fatigue and sleep deprivation are some of the leading causes of accidents involving commercial trucks.
- Insufficient Truck Maintenance: Lack of regular repairs and maintenance of commercial trucks can lead to a crash. This is due to a complete loss of the vehicle caused by a tire blowout, brake failure, or other equipment failures.
- Reckless Driving: A trucker that fails to follow the rules of the road can risk the lives of others. Many accidents are caused by semi-trucks following other cars too closely and unsafe lane changes combined with speeding.
- Records Falsification: Trucking companies and truck drivers may attempt to circumvent restrictions by falsifying records such as logbooks, receipts for fuel, and other trip documents. When a crash happens, both the company and the truck could be held responsible for falsifying relevant documents and resulting losses.
- Substance Abuse: Truckers sometimes use drugs or alcohol to cope with the demands and lifestyle of truck driving. Despite the laws regulating abuse, this can lead to a severe crash.
Under Section 396.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, truck companies are obligated to ensure that its vehicles have been properly inspected and maintained. It is also the duty of the entity and the driver to keep the truck in a safe operating condition and ensure that the load is properly secured before starting any trip. Records of inspection, maintenance, and repairs must be documented in the computer information system and can be provided on demand. Inspections of the truck must be conducted to check the emergency equipment, parking brake, horn, tires, windshield wipers, steering systems, brake connections, coupling devices, fluids, mirrors, lights, and reflectors. When this is not followed, accidents can occur.Preservation of Evidence Letters in a Truck Collision Claim
Preservation of evidence letters in a trucking accident case is critical to proving liability. Truck companies are required to retain specific records for a set amount of time under federal regulations. After this period, the records are often destroyed. The loss of this evidence can make it complex to prove liability in a truck collision. While these letters are intended to fit the details of the trucking crash and the assigned claim, these notices can pertain to electronic and physical documents and evidence such as information from the vehicle’s electronic logging device and records of repair and maintenance for the truck. Evidence related to the driver such as his or her driving record, employment history, training credentials, driving log, drug testing exams, and medical exam certifications may also be used to substantiate the claim.Minimum Insurance Requirements for Semi-Trucks
Trucking companies carry commercial policies that protect the driver and the company against personal injury or wrongful death claims. Motor carriers that deliver non-hazardous materials are required to have at least $750,000 in bodily injury liability insurance to meet FMCSA standards. Commercial trucks that transport oil must have insurance of $1 million in liability coverage. Motor carriers of specific hazardous materials must have an insurance policy in place worth $5 million or a bond in that same amount. Since the stakes are substantial for the insurer, they often use tactics to pay as little as possible on the claim or even deny it altogether. An experienced North Highlands truck accident attorney knows how to overcome these tactics and hold the insurance company to its obligations to ensure you receive a favorable recovery for your damages.Calculating the Value of a Truck Accident Settlement
There is no such thing as a fender bender when it comes to trucking collisions. Passenger vehicle damage is often beyond repair, and those riding in smaller cars often suffer catastrophic injuries. Compensation for a truck crash covers economic and noneconomic losses specific to the circumstances of the case. These include:
- Disfigurement: One of the most devastating injuries that can be suffered after a big rig collision is scarring. A disfigurement, particularly in a visible area, can cause embarrassment and humiliation due to cosmetic concerns. Those with permanent scarring are eligible to claim compensation for the emotional and physical suffering caused by their disfigurement. Conversely, the cost of ongoing medical treatment or the need for cosmetic surgeries in the future may also be claimed.
- Loss of Consortium: An injured party and his or her spouse may be entitled to the recovery for the diminishment of marital relations. Damages for loss of consortium may also include the inability to conceive children.
- Medical Expenses: All reasonable and necessary costs for past and future treatment of injuries sustained in a truck crash are recoverable. These include emergency room care, ambulance rides, hospital stays, medication costs, surgeries, therapy, rehabilitation, and more. The cost of medical appliances such as a walker, brace or wheelchair and expenses for transportation to medical appointments may also be taken into consideration for financial recovery.
- Permanent Disability: If a person is permanently disabled after being injured in a trucking crash, he or she may be eligible to obtain a settlement for future medical bills and lost wages. This is designed to compensate the injured party for the income that would have been earned throughout their career had the crash not occurred. An injury attorney may hire an expert such as an economist to prepare a life care plan that projects costs of future medical treatment and wage loss associated with the disability.
- Wage Loss: Any income that was lost as a direct result of injuries sustained in a big rig accident may be recovered. If sick or vacation time was used to recover from an injury, an injured person might be entitled to the reimbursement of earnings lost during that period.
- Wrongful Death: Damages for wrongful death may be awarded to surviving family members of the decedent. These include funeral and burial expenses, lost benefits and inheritance, mental anguish, emotional suffering, and loss of companionship. End-of-life medical expenses may also be recovered in a survival action.
To learn more about the damages that could be claimed in a truck accident lawsuit, watch the below video.Punitive Damages in a Truck Accident Case
Punitive damages are designed for more than just compensation for emotional, physical, and financial losses. Instead, these exemplary damages are solely intended to punish the negligent party or entity for their behavior in cases of fraud, malice, or oppression. To recover this type of damage in a semi-truck accident, it must be proven that the trucker engaged in an egregious act such as driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. Conversely, a trucking company may have to pay punitive damages for contributing to a collision by not conducting thorough background checks on truckers before hiring them, failing to maintain its fleet of vehicles, and encouraging truck drivers to speed and disregard hours of service regulations.Comparative Fault in a Big Rig Crash
California follows a system of comparative fault. This means the liability of each person involved is based upon their respective contributions to the collision. Insurance carriers for trucking companies often use this system to assign fault and pay claims for damages accordingly. However, insurers often hire experts and defense counsel to reduce liability to the smallest extent possible. This is their way of devaluing a claim and leaving the injured person in a financial predicament. Hiring a skilled injury lawyer in these situations is critical. A lawyer knows the ways of countering strategies employed by trucking insurance companies to maximize the financial recovery an injured individual needs and deserves.Statute of Limitations in a Truck Accident Case
Time is of the essence in a truck accident case. There is a two-year window after a semi-truck collision to bring a claim for personal injury or wrongful death in California. If the claim is not filed within this time frame, it is possible for the court to deny your case.Contingent Fee Basis
While many people are under the impression that hiring an attorney can be expensive, this is not always the case. Most personal injury lawyers handle truck accident cases on a contingency basis. This means an injured party will not be required to pay any fees upfront. A fee will only be due if a successful outcome is obtained in the case.Why Do I Need a North Highlands Truck Accident Attorney?
Every truck accident claim is entirely unique due to the details and circumstances involved. Anyone who has suffered severe injuries or lost a loved one due to the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company will usually face an insurer attempting to limit liability for the incident. If the case is taken to court, the defense attorneys hired by the insurance carrier will also try to reduce any potential verdict or settlement. In these situations, it is essential to hire an experienced attorney to ensure your right to fair compensation is protected.North Highlands Truck Accident Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a North Highlands truck accident lawyer. Anyone can be overwhelmed with the aftermath of a truck accident, especially when serious injuries or death are involved. If you or your loved one were seriously injured or even killed in a truck accident caused by the negligence of another, please call me at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 to receive my free, friendly case advice.
As a member of the Million Dollar Advocates, I join other trial attorneys in this forum who have obtained over $1 million for a client. I also hold membership in the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. This organization invites top tier attorneys to join who exhibit high standards of legal excellence.
Go to our Verdicts and Settlements page to view a list of some of the case results we have previously obtained for our clients.
Image Source: By "markusspiske," "free-photos" and "rawpixel" via Pixabay
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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.13.19]